The 2023 NBA Playoffs

Throughout the NBA playoffs thus far, the unexpected has continued to occur as new players shine and the value of a great coach continues to grow.


Davis Ohanian

As we delve deeper into the 2022-2023 playoffs, fans and experts alike continue to be shocked by the rise of new stars, entering a new era of basketball, lacking the complete domination of superstars. 38-year-old LeBron James, 36-year-old Stephen Curry, and many other aging or retiring superstar players continue to illustrate the emergence of new teams and a chance for budding franchises to face respectable prospects in attaining the 2022-23 Larry O’Brien Trophy. 

During the time of publishment, historically successful franchises such as the Lakers and Celtics are facing 0-3 deficits in their respective series against the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat. Statistically and on paper, it seemed as if these “superteams” would face relatively plausible paths to the finals, as the Lakers were predicted to have a 48% chance of advancing in the best-of-7 series while the Celtics were given a completely lopsided 97% chance of advancing. Thus, we can assert and assume the fact that on paper, each team had a substantial, NBA Finals-capable roster, 

However, these analytics seem to completely disregard or underestimate the value of a key part of a team: the coach. Compared to Darvin Ham and Joe Mazzulla, the respective first-year coaches of the Lakers and Celtics, Mike Malone and Erik Spoelstra, the coaches of the Nuggets and Heat, are multi-year veterans and widely regarded as two of the best minds in the entire league. The discrepancy between coaching is largely represented through each team’s depth – the Nuggets and Heat both utilize strong rotational players to account for their lack of frontloaded talent, unlike the Lakers and Celtics, who both feature two superstars in their starting lineups. 

Erik Spoelstra’s ingenuity has allowed the Heat to delve into their rotation without sacrificing their chances; their 7 undrafted players continue to perform in big moments as they have continuously outperformed superstars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown on the Celtics. Led by a veteran presence in Jimmy Butler, Erik Spoelstra’s team persists in its attempt to shatter expectations. 

On the other side of the country, the consistency of Mike Malone’s Nuggets continues to outlast the aging Lakers. Led by a singular superstar in Nikola Jokic, the team’s playmaking ability allows role players to shine, dominating the game from start to finish. 

Through all of the big moments and the shattering of expectations, the NBA playoffs provide tremendous excitement and heartbreak in the endeavor to crown a singular champion. While entering into a new era, we cannot disregard the previous MVP play of superstars such as LeBron and Stephen Curry, but we have to understand that the game of basketball is changing – and maybe for the better. 

Mike Malone celebrates his players after a crucial game 3 win.
Jimmy Butler is hyped after setting multiple franchise records.

In Jimmy Butler’s words, “We don’t listen to the outside noise, and we will not listen to any outside noise. We’re going to do what we do.”